Hollywood Comes To Video Surveillance

Aug. 30, 2013
The video storage and management concepts that have ruled media & entertainment are now being applied to security

Dailies, B-rolls and circle-takes — these digital video-oriented processes of the “Hollywood” production marketplace have, for nearly a decade, seen an explosion in the volume of recorded video that must be stored and managed. Entirely new workflows have been created to handle the deluge of video that digital movie-set cameras have unleashed.

In the old days, parts of movies, TV shows and commercials would end up on the “cutting room floor,” as sections of film were edited out of the production. Nowadays, every “take” is kept and possibly re-used in the bloopers edition or the director’s cut release.

SPOILER ALERT: This article is about the technical management and storage of surveillance video and not an article on the cool special-effects Hollywood is pretending to do with video surveillance.

What our colleagues in the very similar Media and Entertainment (M&E) — or Hollywood — marketplace have learned is how to manage this vast amount of (and significantly growing) recorded video that is generated every day. How do directors and producers quickly access and review the day’s shoot? How do they select the takes and scenes that make it into a movie? How can they quickly and easily find video scenes previously recorded for other productions and reuse them? What’s the most cost-effective, affordable way to store all of these video assets? These are questions for which Hollywood has already figured out the answer.

With the IP video surveillance marketplace managing a similar process to Hollywood in terms of storing vast amounts of recorded video, perhaps we should embrace their tried-and-true workflows for surveillance video lifecycle storage.

Following in Hollywood’s Footsteps
Hollywood has already learned how to monetize recorded video over and over again — it has learned how to use IT storage technologies to store terabytes and petabytes of video at the lowest possible costs (especially operational costs).

Hollywood has also learned how to add more information (metadata) to the recorded video to help make it more relevant for quicker searches in the future. In Hollywood, if you cannot find and retrieve the recorded video quickly and easily, it quickly becomes useless to retain it.
Many people in the M&E market point to the introduction of the RED digital camera as the tipping point for Hollywood’s move to a digital workflow. Originally conceived in 2005, RED became a driving force in moving away from actual “film” to a digital medium.

Removing the high cost of movie and television-grade film enabled production companies to “save it all” and not leave any video footage on the proverbial cutting room floor. The side effect is an enormous amount of extra video. Here’s an examination of two areas that Hollywood has gotten it right with regards to video management and video storage: metadata and LTO.

Metadata, or “data about the data” enables each user to add information about a video that can be later used to easily search and review the video. “Airplane flyover of Golden Gate Bridge at sunset” is a great example of a clip of video that a production company could easily reuse for any movie about San Francisco. “Airplane,” “Golden Gate Bridge” and “sunset” are all metadata terms that would significantly help an editor quickly find this scene and use it again. Think of the cost savings metadata creates, as the other option is to send out another film crew to shoot another airplane flying over the same famed bridge.

Similarly, being able to pinpoint the specific clip of video in a video surveillance environment becomes easy using metadata. In fact, its cost-effectiveness makes metadata worth its weight in gold. Implementing sound metadata to recorded surveillance video enables more relevant search results and provides a way to find the proverbial needle in our ever growing video storage haystack.

Tiered Storage using LTO
The other area that Hollywood has learned how to do it right is in the use of multiple tiers of storage for recorded video. Just as in the video surveillance marketplace, video is not frequently reused or viewed after initial recording; and, just like the video surveillance market, this rapid expansion of video assets is a relatively recent change and these newer solutions are now maturing.

What existing digital storage technologies are trustworthy enough to store our video assets and ensure they will be there when we need them? Enter LTO digital computer data tape.
LTO storage has been available since 2000 and has become the de facto standard in computer data tape storage, and is heavily used in the Hollywood marketplace. The challenge for many in the video surveillance and security industry is that when they see the word “tape” their minds immediately jump to VHS. Although tape is indeed a four-letter word, if you continue reading this article holding onto that notion, you will miss out on all of its benefits.

IBM, HP and Seagate developed LTO to counter other data tape technologies, thus introducing a more open format. Much of the technology is an extension of the work done by IBM at its Tucson lab during the previous 20 years with more than 80 percent of the world’s data residing on data tape.

Around the time of the release of LTO-1, Seagate’s magnetic tape division was spun off and eventually acquired by Quantum. Today, IBM, HP, Quantum, Spectra Logic, Oracle and a number of others manufacture LTO data tape libraries, with IBM and HP manufacturing the LTO drives. The latest generation, LTO-6, began shipping in December of 2012 in 2.5-Terabyte cartridges with a retail price of about $90 per cartridge.

Adoption of LTO is already firmly established in the Hollywood media production environment. One of the driving forces behind this adoption is a mandate to many feature motion picture productions by insurance companies that content (video) captured on set or on location be archived to LTO tape on a daily basis. LTO meets the dual needs of the studios and the insurance bonding companies. The bonding companies feel more at ease because the content is archived on LTO, the same tape-based platform that banks use.

LTO is rated at up to 30 years archival shelf life. It provides for 5,000 cartridge loads/unloads and it allows for approximately 260 full file passes — with one full pass equal to writing enough data to fill an entire tape cartridge. With the sequential data structure format of video, LTO data tape becomes an ideal storage medium.

LTO for Surveillance Video
An appropriate surveillance video workflow must be put into place to properly use LTO as a video surveillance storage medium. Just as in the Hollywood market, there needs to be a way to reference the original video stored on LTO data tape without any prolonged delays. Just like Hollywood’s video editors, video surveillance operators cannot afford to wait to search and playback recorded video.

By implementing the use of low-resolution companion files, these reference files can be stored on spinning hard disk and consume a far smaller file size — thus storing a significantly longer period of time — and allow for quick and easy video playback.

As in almost every video surveillance investigation, there is a fair level of forward or backward “scrubbing” to actually find the video of interest to review. These low-resolution companion files generate very low network bandwidth use with a great side effect of loading and playing very quickly. Low-resolution companion files enable operators to bounce around recorded video looking for something specific with little overhead.

Then, just like a Hollywood editor, a surveillance video operator can select the snippet of video needed to deliver to HR/Police/Court/etc with the companion file timestamp directing the system to the specific original, untouched and unaltered video clip located on the specific LTO cartridge. This taking but a few minutes of transfer time to complete.

This best-practices approach to multi-tiered video storage also delivers appropriate “chain-of-custody” needed to submit the video as evidence in a court of law. However, it is the speed that surveillance video operators will care about most with the ability to quickly find the video they are interested in.

The Business Case for LTO
From a cost standpoint, this video storage system becomes a more superior infrastructure. Compare the acquisition costs of terabytes and petabytes of spinning NAS and SAN to the cost of an appropriate LTO data tape library, complete with robotics. The LTO implementation is significantly less expensive.

Considering the 3- to 4-year lifespan of spinning disks, the 30-year longevity of LTO helps users avoid maintenance costs, not to mention the ongoing monthly operational costs of electricity for all that spinning disk and the cooling costs to keep those SAN/NAS units spinning, which tend to add up quickly.

Implementing a sound multi-tiered video storage infrastructure with spinning disk for low-resolution companion files linked to unaltered original video stored on LTO enables more video to be stored for less cost and headache.

Creating an LTO-Based System for your Customers
How do we create a disk-and-LTO infrastructure to provide customers what they need in video storage without breaking the bank?

When contemplating a 21st century surveillance video management solution, a spinning disk-only approach harkens back to pre-Columbus days — there are better ways to reach the destination. Your customers generally want to store as much video as they can, they want to record at the highest resolutions and frame rates, and they want it as affordable as possible.
So why not learn from our colleagues in the Hollywood market?

I am confident that the video surveillance market will indeed adopt these workflow concepts that have been perfected in Hollywood and you will see increasing usage of metadata, low-resolution companion files and LTO storage devices. Embracing the sequential data structure format of video along with the use of LTO data tape delivers an ideal storage solution.

Thanks Hollywood.

Jay Jason Bartlett is the VP of WW Sales and Marketing for SoleraTec, software publishers of Phoenix VCM and Phoenix RSM video lifecycle management products for both the M&E and video surveillance markets. Request more info on the company at www.securityinfowatch.com/10604799.